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Posted at 11:27 AM ET, 01/14/2011

'The entire Confederacy was a land-bound Titanic'

By Ezra Klein

One of the main themes of this blog is that we spend too much time analyzing things in terms of individuals and too little time thinking about the systems and structures which cause those individuals to act the way we do. The Senate tends to be my example, but Ta-Nehisi Coates has a beautiful post in which he applies a similar lens to the slave-owning South. Don't miss it.

By Ezra Klein  | January 14, 2011; 11:27 AM ET
 
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Comments

Like I said yesterday, the volume of your posts has increased markedly, but the general goofiness level has gone way up. You don't HAVE to share every thought you have with us Ezra, even I don't do that!

Posted by: 54465446 | January 14, 2011 11:50 AM | Report abuse

So then, let's think about the systems and structures and groups whose actions or lack of actions helped cause Jared Loughner to act the way he did. Do they or do they not have blood on their hands?

Posted by: JF11 | January 14, 2011 11:51 AM | Report abuse

thank you for sharing another fine article by ta-nehisi coates.

Posted by: jkaren | January 14, 2011 11:57 AM | Report abuse

thank you for sharing another fine article by ta-nehisi coates.

Posted by: jkaren | January 14, 2011 11:58 AM | Report abuse

Remember, "the slave-owning South" was largely a European import. American's didn't just invent slavery on the spur of the moment. Coates might easily trace the societal stratifications he finds so fascinating back to, and forward from, the old continent. The class system that allegedly contributed to the Old South's mindset is still big in Europe.

Posted by: msoja | January 14, 2011 12:05 PM | Report abuse

"Remember, "the slave-owning South" was largely a European import. "

remember, you're entitled to your own opinions, but not your own facts.

Posted by: newagent99 | January 14, 2011 12:31 PM | Report abuse

The class mindset is still prevalent in the GOP too.

The south didn't invent slavery, buy they fought it at every opportunity. This includes the civil war and the battle of the Alamo, indeed one if the things texicans were fighting was Mexicos desire to end slavery in the Texas lands.

The confederacy had dreams of a great slave empire that included parts of Mexico and the carribean.

Those darn American marxists meanwhile were trying to abolish slavery.

Posted by: lauren2010 | January 14, 2011 12:33 PM | Report abuse


http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20100430231028AA1E4dp
The census also determined that there were fewer than 385,000 individuals who owned slaves (1). Even if all slaveholders had been white, that would amount to only 1.4 percent of whites in the country (or 4.8 percent of southern whites owning one or more slaves).
According to federal census reports, on June 1, 1860 there were nearly 4.5 million Negroes in the United States, with fewer than four million of them living in the southern slaveholding states. Of the blacks residing in the South, 261,988 were not slaves. Of this number, 10,689 lived in New Orleans. The country's leading African American historian, Duke University professor John Hope Franklin, records that in New Orleans over 3,000 free Negroes owned slaves, or 28 percent of the free Negroes in that city.

Posted by: WrongfulDeath | January 14, 2011 12:35 PM | Report abuse

--*you're entitled to your own opinions, but not your own facts.*--

"The profits of the slave trade and of West Indian plantations amounted to 5% of the British economy at the time of the Industrial Revolution."

See Wikipedia: "Slavery in the Americas".

The North American *colonies* were European imports. Slavery came along.

Posted by: msoja | January 14, 2011 12:49 PM | Report abuse

msoja - Several hundred thousand dead Confederate soldiers would probably disagree that they weren't interested in slavery.

Posted by: willows1 | January 14, 2011 12:59 PM | Report abuse

msoja, I'm confused by your point. Clearly you're correct that the American South didn't invent slavery. The North had slaves (for a while), and you're right that slavery was imported to the states by its European settlers. And, of course, various forms of slavery had existed for thousands of years before than in nearly every society on Earth.

But certainly American slavery had some unique features, and the presence of historical slavery doesn't make American slavery any less of a horrific practice.

Coates is right, of course, that it was the society that was truly evil, and that while there may have been evil individuals in that society that there really wasn't a guilty/innocent option on the table in a way we'd understand it. It's a thoughtful and interesting piece. Glad you linked to it, Ezra.

Posted by: MosBen | January 14, 2011 1:13 PM | Report abuse

Wrongful Death - You could just as easily use those numbers to conclude that the Confederacy served as a kind of feudal state with 98.6% of the population serving the considerable interests of the remaining 1.4%.

Posted by: willows1 | January 14, 2011 1:13 PM | Report abuse

--*Several hundred thousand dead Confederate soldiers would probably disagree that they weren't interested in slavery.*--

No one alleged non-interest in slavery, so I fail to see the point of your statement, but the way you state it is eminently debatable. There *were* many people for whom the issue of the day was states rights, which is not to say that slavery was not a larger issue. As to what front line soldiers thought about things, I'd guess that then as now, opinions and motives varied.

Posted by: msoja | January 14, 2011 1:13 PM | Report abuse

msoja - You're pretty clearly trying to say that slavery wasn't prominent in the minds of the Confederates because it was some rump ideology which didn't carry much sway in the South because it was, after all, a European invention. This leads to the conclusion that the South wasn't really fighting for slavery, but for this nebulous "state's rights" concept which seemed to be hunky-dory for everyone else and, oddly, was only a problem for those in slave-holding states. A pure coincidence, of course.

I would venture a guess that convoluted theories trying desperately to come to the conclusion that the Confederate was not primarily fighting for the right to own slaves are more numerous than the stars in the sky. Because to admit otherwise would be simply too painful to modern ways of thinking.

Posted by: willows1 | January 14, 2011 1:23 PM | Report abuse

This post reminds us all to thank the Republican Party for freeing the slaves, despite obstructionism by Democrats: without the GOP, some Americans might never know freedom.

I'd hope that ongoing acknowledgment of the efforts of "Radical Republicans" both past and present becomes a regular feature of Coates's and Klein's work.

Posted by: rmgregory | January 14, 2011 1:43 PM | Report abuse

--*I'm confused by your point.*--

My point was that if Coates really wants to understand the circumstances that gave rise to American slavery, he shouldn't act as though the institution blossomed unbidden on these shores sometime in the 19th Century. The attitudes and societal structures he's analyzing have their roots in earlier times and on another continent. What grew into a uniquely American enterprise was not born of some unique defect in the American character.

Posted by: msoja | January 14, 2011 1:50 PM | Report abuse

--*A pure coincidence, of course.*--

Talk about being confused. A. There are no coincidences. B. A large number of people who opposed slavery also opposed the federal government's growing involvement in the issue. There was a direct connection, not coincidence at all, between the issue of slavery and state's rights, since the feds *were* intruding on the states' rights over the issue.

The Civil War, in fact, was the ultimate usurpation of state's rights, as the states were forcibly prevented from seceding from the union.

Posted by: msoja | January 14, 2011 1:59 PM | Report abuse

Zippity Do-Da.....Zippity Yay.

My O My what a Wonderful Day!

Posted by: WrongfulDeath | January 14, 2011 2:00 PM | Report abuse

I do thank republicans for abolition. They were the liberals of their day.

I would have been a republican then.

The composition if the parties have swapped poles from time to time

The democrats were mean SOBs once, but now the GOP is the mean one. That's why I am no longer a republican.

Posted by: lauren2010 | January 14, 2011 2:08 PM | Report abuse

msoja - as I said, more numerous than the stars in the sky.

Posted by: willows1 | January 14, 2011 2:16 PM | Report abuse

"You could just as easily use those numbers to conclude that the Confederacy served as a kind of feudal state with 98.6% of the population serving the considerable interests of the remaining 1.4%."

What a Maroon!
If this poster had actually taken the time to read the article, the few people that actually *had* slaves were hardly being served by anyone. They were typically not the rich bastards the left would have you believe they were.

Don't hurt yourself pulling your head out of your backside, Sir.

Posted by: WrongfulDeath | January 14, 2011 2:17 PM | Report abuse

Oh, Je_____ Ch______! Now we're going to redo the whole Civil War and slavery thing. This post was even more goofy than I thought.

Posted by: 54465446 | January 14, 2011 2:30 PM | Report abuse

--*as I said, more numerous than the stars in the sky.*--

You can believe what you want, but you are largely putting words in other people's mouths, without reference to fact.

Posted by: msoja | January 14, 2011 2:35 PM | Report abuse

"What grew into a uniquely American enterprise was not born of some unique defect in the American character."

msoja
unless i misunderstand you, (and i may) you are always talking about the individual, having the free will, intelligence and sense of responsibility to do the right thing, without the need of government.
what difference where the roots of slavery came from.
shouldnt it have tormented anyone having slaves, and treating them as less than human, that it was the wrong thing....despite all other concerns.
....so why blame or link it onto the history that preceded slavery in the united states, as an apologist?
why, especially you???
you prove the point of those you are always arguing against, that without government stepping in, many people simply wont do the right thing, because they are selfish, because their economic considerations come before their sense of doing the right thing by other people.
right here, you make a case for government, intervening...when people wont do the right thing.

Posted by: jkaren | January 14, 2011 2:43 PM | Report abuse

msoja,
http://www.civil-war.net/pages/mississippi_declaration.asp

"Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery"

Posted by: JF11 | January 14, 2011 3:02 PM | Report abuse

Wrongful Death - Well, suh, I have nevuh! I demand satuhsfaction!

Posted by: willows1 | January 14, 2011 3:48 PM | Report abuse

"The Civil War, in fact, was the ultimate usurpation of state's rights, as the states were forcibly prevented from seceding from the union."

I believe the only state right mentioned in the confederate articles of secession was slavery, and it was mentioned numerous times.

Posted by: lauren2010 | January 14, 2011 4:27 PM | Report abuse

--*what difference where the roots of slavery came from.*--

Well, that's what Coates (you know, the guy to whom Klein linked) was going on about. I added my two cents on the subject.

I wasn't blaming, or linking, or apologizing. All that is just your own projections on the inside of the big hollow sphere of your head.

Posted by: msoja | January 14, 2011 6:23 PM | Report abuse

--*I believe the only state right mentioned in the confederate articles of secession was slavery, and it was mentioned numerous times.*--

As I mentioned before, secession itself was a big issue. One might even think of it as a right. Not you, of course, but someone might.

Posted by: msoja | January 14, 2011 6:43 PM | Report abuse

--*without government stepping in, many people simply wont do the right thing*--

But slavery was not viewed favorably by a majority of the people of the era. It was slowly being squeezed out. Opprobrium was increasingly being brought to bear on slaveholders.

I can't put my finger on it at the moment, but somewhere around here I've an article positing that slavery most likely would have ended without federal coercion, in a manner far more preferable to the incredible loss of life, and destruction of value, not to mention a hundred years of recriminations, that came with the Civil War. It really didn't have to go the way it did.

Posted by: msoja | January 14, 2011 6:52 PM | Report abuse

So manly man msoja, loud projector of his own BS self-reliance, is also an apologist for those manly, self-reliant slaveholders.

Hilarious.

Posted by: pseudonymousinnc | January 14, 2011 8:37 PM | Report abuse

--*self-reliant slaveholders*--

How are things on the liberal plantation workin' out for ya, mousi?

Posted by: msoja | January 14, 2011 11:26 PM | Report abuse

You're talking crap as ever, soggy. Water on the brain?

Get back to making excuses for slaveholders -- for you, they're just victims of historical circumstance -- because it shows you up as the ridiculous, pretzel-minded hypocrite you are.

Posted by: pseudonymousinnc | January 15, 2011 12:33 AM | Report abuse

--*Get back to making excuses for slaveholders*--

For that, see Coates, to whom Klein linked and remarked "beautiful post".

Posted by: msoja | January 15, 2011 11:24 AM | Report abuse

--*it shows you up as the ridiculous, pretzel-minded hypocrite you are.*--

Ah, the new civility of the left.

Posted by: msoja | January 15, 2011 12:30 PM | Report abuse

It's funny all the defenders of 'secession' as a right.
.
How many of you would like to live in the European Union? because that's what you'd have here in the US if everybody could just secede if they didn't like something about the current gov't.
.
Likewise, if you decry the 'growth' of gov't, imagine if we had 50 separate gov'ts all trying to manage, regulate and otherwise legislate things they way they wanted. Now try to get those 50 different bureaucracy to work together. The overhead dealing with that would be almost unimaginable.
.
Imagine if we didn't have a federal gov't building things like the interstate highway system, the phone lines, insert favorite big project here.
.
Life isn't always greener, just fyi

Posted by: rpixley220 | January 17, 2011 12:56 PM | Report abuse

And one more point. Those 50 different bureaucracies would guarantee we don't have the grand economic engine we have now. 50 different sets of rules for a company to follow would significantly reduce the incentive for businesses to be here.
.
Sometimes one big bureaucracy is better than lots of small ones. Doesn't make it any more fun...but better than the alternative.

Posted by: rpixley220 | January 17, 2011 1:07 PM | Report abuse

--*Imagine if we didn't have a federal gov't building things like the interstate highway system*--

A hundred million animals wouldn't die on the highways every year, we wouldn't be dependent on foreign oil, our carbon footprint would be negligible, etc.

Posted by: msoja | January 17, 2011 4:18 PM | Report abuse

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